If you’re in sales, marketing, advertising, or any related field, you might have heard about the concept of social proof. But what is it, why is it so important, and how can you harness its power in your own sales and marketing campaign?
The Basics of Social Proof.
Let’s start with a basic description of social proof. Strictly speaking, social proof is a psychological concept based on social influence; if people see others partaking in an activity, they’ll be more likely to partake in the activity themselves. In everyday life, this is most powerful in ambiguous situations. For example, if you’re engaging in a new type of activity and you’re not familiar with the etiquette, you’ll look to other people partaking in the activity for cues on how you should proceed.
In the context of marketing, this has more to do with observing others’ past interactions with a brand. In an ambiguous situation (i.e., you’re purchasing from a brand you’ve never heard of before), you can look to past customers to see if they’ve had a good or bad experience. If it seems like there are many people like you who have meaningfully engaged with this brand in the past, you’ll be much more likely to proceed with a conversion or purchase.
Social Proof in Action.
So how can you use this to your advantage?
There are several possibilities here. One of the most effective and most convenient is to use a tool to display mentions of your brand in real-time on your website. For example, you can add a module to your homepage that displays recent mentions of your brand name by people on social media. It’s an easy way to prove to new visitors that your brand is highly regarded.
You can also add social proof to a landing page by specifically calling out people who have used your products and services in the past. For example, you might include a customer spotlight, complete with testimonials from your best clients.
Types of Social Proof.
It’s helpful to think about social proof as divided into several categories, including:
Experts. Experts, including professional reviewers or industry authorities, can play a massive role in shaping public perceptions. They tend to know more than the “average” person.
Celebrities. You could also target celebrities to mention your brand. They tend to have much bigger audiences and therefore, a much bigger impact on public perceptions.
Individuals. Sometimes, reviews and testimonials from average individuals can mean even more. It’s a good snapshot of how this product or service might work for the everyman, rather than an expert or a celebrity.
Crowds. Social proof is also effective when it demonstrates the attitude of an entire crowd. For example, you might be able to highlight two or three testimonials from loyal customers, but what is the average rating of your brand across all audiences?
Friends and clients. You can also display social proof based on who you associate with. For example, have you had any high-profile clients in the past? Which brands and individuals have you partnered with?
Regulatory bodies. Finally, you can increase trust in your organization by displaying your adherence to regulatory recommendations, or your compliance with various regulatory bodies. Oftentimes, this just means displaying the logos or certifications relevant to your brand.
Keys to Success With Social Proof.
If you want to use social proof to boost conversions and improve the reputation of your brand, these are your keys to success:
Prioritize visibility. Your social proof won’t matter much if people can’t see it or discover it on their own. Make sure you keep your social proof as visible as possible, and featured alongside most of your marketing and advertising efforts.
Encourage new engagements. Social proof often depends on the contributions of former customers, current fans, and industry experts. Make sure you’re working to incentivize new contributions. For example, you could regularly encourage new reviews and testimonials from your clients.
Avoid fake content. Some brands have paid people to provide “fake” reviews or testimonials, or make something up as if someone else said it. This is a misguided approach and may end up working against you. Strive to make your social proof as real and sincere as possible.
Experiment and adjust. It’s hard to say which approaches to social proof work best, since every brand and every audience is different. It’s on you to experiment with different approaches, and adjust as you learn more about your success rate.
Social proof is a simple concept to learn, and a difficult one to master for marketing success. Learn from your early attempts and keep experimenting to find the perfect balance of social proof for your landing pages, your website, and your brand throughout the web.